The Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes continued for the second day in Yemen. Backed by a coalition of Arab allies, Saudi is now pitted against Shiite Iran and Iran-backed militant group. The Saudi-led airstrikes are aimed at staking claim as the regional powerhouse in the face of Iran’s rising influence, analysts believe.

Yemen War: Saudi Arabia, Iran Fight For Regional Dominance

39 killed in Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen

According to Antoine Basbous, the head of Paris-based Observatory of Arab Countries, the military intervention was a “last-minute move to prevent Yemen from becoming an Iranian colony.” Basbous said that Iran could strike back elsewhere. AFP reports that more than 39 people were killed in the Saudi-led airstrike.

Yemen’s President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled to Riyadh as Shia Houthi rebels continued to advance towards Hadi’s stronghold of Aden in southern Yemen. Hadi, supported by the West and Sunni Gulf monarchies, has accused Iran of backing the rebels in order to extend its influence in Yemen. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are vying for influence across the Middle-East.

The Iran-backed Houthi minority group have invaded most of Yemen in the past seven months. They have seized control over the capital city of Sanaa, and earlier this week captured parts of Aden, the second-largest city. Saudi Arabia is main ally of Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Besides airstrikes, Saudi has threatened to send ground troops, opening up a broader conflict in the Middle East.

Iran denounces military intervention in Yemen

The Saudis believe the Houthi rebels are proxies for Iran’s Shiite government, and they do not want to see another Shiite-dominate state in the Middle-East, said CNN military analyst Lt. Col. Rick Francona. United States supports the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. Iran has criticized the military intervention. Iranian foreign ministry said the military operation will pull Yemen deeper into turmoil and diminish the chances of a peaceful resolution.

Iran said the military operation won’t help a region already facing threats from groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Houthi supreme leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said Thursday, “If any army try to invade our country, we will prove that Yemen will be a grave for those who invade us.”